Thursday, April 21, 2011
What's in a name?
This is how grumpy I am: I refuse to make up a pseudonym to make the people at Starbuck's happy. My problem is this: My name is Bumble. Yes, Bumble. And please, don't ask me "Is that your REAL name" because that's just rude. No, it's not my REAL name. I wasn't christened Bumble, but I have never been called anything other than Bumble for my whole life and hence, I am Bumble. However, as fabulous and memorable and jolly as my name may be, it has its downside. First of all, most people repeat it back when they hear it. They say "Bumble?" in a questioning manner, as if saying "Excuse Me?" in the Southern Californian/Gossip Girl cadence. Or they say "Barbara?" with their voice swinging upwards at the end. They say Barbara so much that my husband calls me Barbara in public, which amuses him, and him alone, enormously.
My name SUCKS when it comes to ordering things. For example, just fifteen minutes ago I stopped into the lovely Sweet Butter for a coffee (and, truth be told, a slice of bread & butter pudding) and the woman serving me said, "What is your first name?" Now, for most people this is a very easy question. For me, it involves elaborate lies, some soul searching and a huge dose of tamping down the effrontery. Is it my age? Is it that I'm English, that I feel it's forward to ask someone you've never met before their first name? How many years have I lived in Los Angeles, you may ask? Surely, I would've gotten used to this? No, I haven't. I don't know if it's bloody-mindedness or my poor stubborn heart or just a need to be different; I don't like being asked my name. I don't like squirming over the follow-up questions. Even the people that try to be nice ("Oh, that's soooooo cuuuuute") I want to slap. Hard. Today, due to much tutoring and encouragement from my daughter (Honor -- she has similar issues) I said, firmly "Emma. It's Emma." I could hear her cheering in my head. ("Yay, Mamma! You did it!). Emma is the name of one of Honor's best friends. It's a very good name. Short. Sweet. To the point. No-one can mess up Emma.
I must practice this. I must practice saying "Emma" breezily and without blushing. (I'm a terrible liar; my face goes bright red every time.) I must use a special technique to make it believable.
There is a wonderful sect of Brits who call each other, with great joviality, by their last names. As in "Hallo Ward-o. How are you?" It's sweet and dear. To those people, Bumble was never an odd name. They'd either known someone called Bumble or they had a dog or a favorite pony named Bumble. To them, Bumble sounds perfectly comfortable and cozy and plump and friendly. It's a friendly name isn't it? But it's not a sexy name. It's not Raquel or Delilah or even Serena. It's not a pretty name like Daisy or Lulu or Jonquil or Clare. And it's certainly not statuesque like Victoria or Elizabeth or Christabel (I was thinking of the Pankhursts.) It doesn't make you think phwoooaaaar, exactly, does it?
But it's mine and I've become rather fond of it, in its own friendly way. However, if you ever meet me at Starbuck's, I'll be Emma, the one with the blonde, curly hair and the red face.